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5 Easy Ways To Increase Drag Quickly

Thanks to UND Aerospace Phoenix for making this story possible. Check out the full series here. And if you want to become a pilot, learn how to get started at UND Aerospace Phoenix.

There are a few easy things you can do to increase drag for managing airspeed or a descent. Which of these do you use the most?

?? Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

1) Drop The Landing Gear

Interference drag is generated by the mixing of airflow streamlines between airframe components. For example, between the landing gear strut and the fuselage. As air flows around different aircraft components and mixes, a localized shock wave is formed, creating a drag sum greater than the drag that components would have by themselves.

Dropping the landing gear also produces a large amount of form drag. Form drag is the result of an object's general shape in relation to the relative wind. Have you ever stuck your hand out the window of the car, first tilting it flat, and then vertical, into the wind? When your hand is horizontal like an airfoil, it's easy to stick outside the window. But when you open your hand into the wind, your hand flies backwards, and requires a lot more force to hold it position.


2) Add Flaps

As they say, "nothing in life is free", and the same goes for lift. When you produce more lift, you produce more induced drag. But that increase in drag can be very useful, especially when you're landing.


3) Deploy Spoilers

Spoilers destroy lift, but why exactly would you want them to do that? Just ask a glider pilot or airline pilot. Gliders and airliners are built to produce very little drag, which is great in most cases, except when you're trying to descend and slow down.


4) Move Your Propeller Control Forward

Some constant speed propeller systems allow props to moved into a "feathered" position. Naturally, if free movement was allowed, a propeller would tend to flatten itself into the wind. Think about driving with your hand outside of a car window. The wind naturally wants to flatten your hand into the wind. And when that happens, suddenly it's harder to hold your hand in place.

So, if you want more drag, push your prop control forward, in a low pitch/high RPM setting. This is the normal position for constant speed propellers during takeoff and landing. Click here to learn more about how constant speed propellers work.


5) Fly A Forward Slip

To enter a forward slip, first bring the power to idle, and make sure you're fully configured for landing with full flaps, if your manufacturer allows. Using ailerons, lower the wing on the side in the direction you want to slip. If there's a crosswind, bank into the wind. Simultaneously, yaw the airplane's nose in the opposite direction by applying opposite rudder. Step on the rudder enough so that you maintain a straight ground track toward the runway.

When you're flying a forward slip, you're cross-controlling the airplane, and creating a large amount of drag (see the red on the diagram below). You're exposing a large amount of fuselage surface area into the wind. This increases both drag and your descent rate, without a substantial gain in airspeed.


How do you manage drag in your airplane? Tell us in the comments below.

Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with UND Aerospace Phoenix, and find out what it takes to start your aviation career here.

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